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December 15, 2021

Addressing the Pharmacy Industry Labor Shortage with Automation

Greg Haas
Senior Manager, Product Marketing

Staffing is the number one problem facing employers today, especially hospitals and health systems. A shortage of qualified employees has plagued nearly every healthcare sector, with a loss of more than 524,000 jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health system pharmacy is one of the hardest-hit areas.

Staffing shortages aren't new to health system pharmacies. In fact, studies show that the problem extends as far back as the 1980s. But the combination of pandemic burnout and other industries competing for talent is leading to increased turnover. Companies like Amazon, McDonald's, and even local gas stations are offering increased salaries, signing bonuses, more flexible hours, and other benefits that are luring your pharmacy technicians away.

The loss of these employees has a bigger impact than just more work for remaining staff. When an employee leaves, they take with them experience and knowledge that can set your pharmacy back years. Progress is lost as inefficiencies and bad habits creep back into processes, with less expertise available to put operations back on the path to improvement.

Labor shortages have other far-reaching impacts, including: 

  • Reduced quality of patient care
  • Increased workloads for remaining staff
  • Slow delivery of medications
  • Process inefficiencies that can lead to medication errors
  • Loss of experienced employees
  • Difficulty recruiting
  • Growing operational costs

So how can you address staffing challenges and the domino impact on patient care?

The importance of automation for pharmacies has never been greater. The safety and efficiency benefits of medication management technology are well known, but leveraging automation also allows you to better optimize your staff's efficiency to reduce labor gaps. Central Pharmacy automation eliminates manual tasks like picking and stocking medications, allowing you and your staff to focus on higher value tasks that directly impact patient care.  

The XR2 Automated Central Pharmacy System automates critical workflows to maximize inventory control, improve efficiency, increase patient safety, and importantly, reduce technician labor associated with medication dispensing. This advanced technology supports: 

  • 100 percent barcode scanning of medications whether they're going to cabinets or carts
  • Reduction of medication checks by up to 90 percent
  • Limited touches during restocking and dispensing to eliminate the potential for human error
  • Native manufacturer packing to remove the possibility of human error when repackaging

Pharmacies can expect more from their investment in automation. It should be optimized on day one and throughout the equipment's entire life, regardless of change brought by your hospital or industry-wide trends. Omnicell is the only vendor to offer services with our automation to help you achieve more than is possible with automation alone.  

The XR2 robotic system is part of an all-inclusive service that is supported by on-site experts to run the system, delivering value and desired outcomes from week one. Omnicell's comprehensive Central Pharmacy Dispensing Service allows you to: 

  • Perpetually maximize patient safety, labor efficiency, and inventory management
  • Make decisions based on expert people, processes, data, recommendations, best practices, and modeling
  • Allocate staff to ensure Pharmacists are operating at the top of their license and leaders are leading teams instead of performing mundane tasks

This "as-a-Service" approach is new and unique, and is now more important than ever to help address labor shortages and staffing challenges. By leveraging automation and services, you're able to redirect staff to higher value tasks, leading to better job satisfaction and employee retention.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.